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What is botulism and how is it treated?

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As of Aug. 14, the Castleberry Food Co.’s Web site still posted a long list of its voluntary recall of products linked to a botulism outbreak with four cases being reported last month: two in Indiana and two in Texas.

Not only did the outbreak cause worry since many consumers use the company’s products including chili sauce, canned corned beef and dog food but it also begged the question: what is botulism?

“It’s a toxin that causes paralysis that’s formed by a germ or bacteria that grows in food that hasn’t been adequately sterilized or preserved before it’s canned,” said Dr. John Gabler, pediatric disease infection physician.

All four people who reported a case of botulism consumed Hot Dog Chili Sauce, a Castleberry product. The company has recalled more than 90 items.

“State officials are still warning Hoosiers in all counties to check their canned goods at home to be sure they do not have any of the recalled items,” said Indiana State Department of Health (ISDH) spokesperson, Jennifer Dunlap.

So, how do you know if you have botulism? Unfortunately, you can’t tell without seeing your doctor. Gabler says individuals may feel symptoms of botulism after eating contaminated food.

“With some food poisoning you might have a stomach ache or nausea,” he said. “With botulism it may start that way, but it would go on to you experiencing weakness, blurred vision and maybe some funny feelings in the arms.”

Botulism can cause death and is considered a medical emergency. Though not speaking for all cases, Gabler says botulism cases are rare and says he may see one case in infants a year.

According to the ISDH, there are several ways to prevent botulism such as: never eating foods in cans or jars that are bulging, discolored, or have swollen lids or caps; if the can or food looks normal but has a bad taste or smell, do not eat it; and people who do home canning should follow very clean methods to reduce contamination.

For a list of the recalled food go to: www.castleberrys.com.

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